Dec 052014
 

Hear the conversation between Tony Delroy and Bob Hughes here

Haptics – computer generated touch feedback mostly used in video games to move people’s chairs around and let them feel impact through chest pads, but now 3d  haptics that you can feel. 3D haptic shapes that can be felt and seen are provided by ultrasound.

There’s the suggestion that one reason men often earn more than women is that they are better negotiators, but that may not always be true. Women are better in certain circumstances, which unfortunately includes negotiating for someone else, not themselves.

Loneliness is often thought to be a health issue because no one’s around to remind people to do healthy things, but it may go deeper than that. Loneliness itself may be the disease say researchers.

And if you get caught up in repetitive negative thoughts – it may because of your sleep habits. How early go you to sleep has a bearing as well as how long you sleep.

There’s more research that says we’re less stressed each day if we check our email less often. We just need organisations to believe we shouldn’t be constantly on call for emails.

And finally the curry makers and eaters may know more than we do about health – a little turmeric at breakfast improves memory. Turmeric helps in the early stages of diabetes and for people at risk of cognitive impairment…

 

Dec 052014
 

StressIs your inbox burning you out? Then take heart – research from the University of British Columbia suggests that easing up on email checking can help reduce psychological stress.

Some of the study’s 124 adults — including students, financial analysts medical professionals and others — were instructed to limit checking email to three times daily for a week. Others were told to check email as often as they could (which turned out to be about the same number of times that they normally checked their email prior to the study).

These instructions were then reversed for the participants during a subsequent week. During the study period, participants also answered brief daily surveys, including information about their stress levels.

“Our findings showed that people felt less stressed when they checked their email less often,” says Kostadin Kushlev, the study’s lead author and a PhD candidate at UBC’s Dept. of Psychology.

Changing inbox behaviour may be easier said than done, however. “Most participants in our study found it quite difficult to check their email only a few times a day,” says Kushlev. “This is what makes our obvious-in-hindsight findings so striking: People find it difficult to resist the temptation of checking email, and yet resisting this temptation reduces their stress.”

Kushlev’s inspiration for the study came from his own experiences with email overload. “I now check my email in chunks several times a day, rather than constantly responding to messages as they come in,” he says. “And I feel better and less stressed.”

He also notes that organizations may help reduce employee stress by encouraging their workers to check their email in chunks rather than constantly responding to messages.

Source: University of British Columbia

Dec 052014
 

When you go to bed, and how long you sleep at a time, might actually make it difficult for you to stop worrying. So say Jacob Nota and Meredith Coles of Binghamton University in the US, who found that people who sleep for shorter periods of time and go to bed very late at night are hours. The findings appear in Springer’s journal Cognitive Therapy and Research.often overwhelmed with more negative thoughts than those who keep more regular sleeping .

People are said to have repetitive negative thinking when they have bothersome pessimistic thoughts that seem to repeat in their minds. They feel as though they have little control over these contemplations. They also tend to worry excessively about the future, delve too much into the past, and experience annoying intrusive thoughts. Such thoughts are often typical of people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder. These individuals also tend to have sleep problems.

Previous studies have linked sleep problems with such repetitive negative thoughts, especially in cases where someone does not get enough shut eye. Nota and Coles set out to replicate these studies, and to further see if there’s any link between having such repetitive thoughts and the actual time when someone goes to bed.

They asked 100 young adults at Binghamton University to complete a battery of questionnaires and two computerized tasks. In the process, it was measured how much the students worry, ruminate or obsess about something – three measures by which repetitive negative thinking is gauged. The students were also asked whether they were more habitual morning or evening types, preferring to hold regular hours or to have a sleep-wake schedule that is more skewed towards later in the day,

The researchers found that people who sleep for shorter periods of time and go to bed later often experience more repetitive negative thoughts than others. This was also true for those students who described themselves as evening types.

“Making sure that sleep is obtained during the right time of day may be an inexpensive and easily disseminable intervention for individuals who are bothered by intrusive thoughts,” remarks Nota.

The findings also suggest that sleep disruption may be linked to the development of repetitive negative thinking. Nota and Coles therefore believe that it might benefit people who are at risk of developing a disorder characterized by such intrusive thoughts to focus on getting enough sleep.

“If further findings support the relation between sleep timing and repetitive negative thinking, this could one day lead to a new avenue for treatment of individuals with internalizing disorders,” adds Coles. “Studying the relation between reductions in sleep duration and psychopathology has already demonstrated that focusing on sleep in the clinic also leads to reductions in symptoms of psychopathology.”

This study is part of a line of research examining the relations between sleep behavior and mental health. Based on growing evidence linking sleep and psychopathology, Nota and Coles and their colleagues at Binghamton University are aiming to understand how information about sleep may be used to help individuals with anxiety disorders.

Source: Springer

Dec 052014
 

Ultrasound is focused to create the shape of a virtual sphere. Credit: Image courtesy of Bristol Interaction and Graphics group, University of Bristol, copyright © 2014

Ultrasound is focused to create the shape of a virtual sphere.
Credit: Image courtesy of Bristol Interaction and Graphics group, University of Bristol, copyright © 2014

Technology has changed rapidly over the last few years with touch feedback, known as haptics, being used in entertainment, rehabilitation and even surgical training. New research, using ultrasound, has developed an invisible 3D haptic shape that can be seen and felt.

The research paper, published in the current issue of ACM Transactions on Graphics and which will be presented at this week’s SIGGRAPH Asia 2014 conference [3-6 December], demonstrates how a method has been created to produce 3D shapes that can be felt in mid-air.

The research, led by Dr Ben Long and colleagues Professor Sriram Subramanian, Sue Ann Seah and Tom Carter from the University of Bristol’s Department of Computer Science, could change the way 3D shapes are used. The new technology could enable surgeons to explore a CT scan by enabling them to feel a disease, such as a tumour, using haptic feedback.

The method uses ultrasound, which is focussed onto hands above the device and that can be felt. By focussing complex patterns of ultrasound, the air disturbances can be seen as floating 3D shapes. Visually, the researchers have demonstrated the ultrasound patterns by directing the device at a thin layer of oil so that the depressions in the surface can be seen as spots when lit by a lamp.

The system generates an invisible 3D shape that can be added to 3D displays to create something that can be seen and felt. The research team have also shown that users can match a picture of a 3D shape to the shape created by the system.

Dr Ben Long, Research Assistant from the Bristol Interaction and Graphics (BIG) group in the Department of Computer Science, said: “Touchable holograms, immersive virtual reality that you can feel and complex touchable controls in free space, are all possible ways of using this system.

“In the future, people could feel holograms of objects that would not otherwise be touchable, such as feeling the differences between materials in a CT scan or understanding the shapes of artefacts in a museum.”

Source: University of Bristol

Dec 052014
 

Professor Michael Barnsley with a fractally transformed teacup and pot. Image Phil Dooley, ANU

Professor Michael Barnsley with a fractally transformed teacup and pot. Image Phil Dooley, ANU

An ANU mathematician has developed a new way to uncover simple patterns that might underlie apparently complex systems, such as clouds, cracks in materials or the movement of the stockmarket.

The method, named fractal Fourier analysis, is based on new branch of mathematics called fractal geometry.

The method could help scientists better understand the complicated signals that the body gives out, such as nerve impulses or brain waves.

“It opens up a whole new way of analysing signals,” said Professor Michael Barnsley, who presented his work at the New Directions in Fractal Geometry conference at ANU.

“Fractal Geometry is a new branch of mathematics that describes the world as it is, rather than acting as though it’s made of straight lines and spheres. There are very few straight lines and circles in nature. The shapes you find in nature are rough.”

The new analysis method is closely related to conventional Fourier analysis, which is integral to modern image handling and audio signal processing.

“Fractal Fourier analysis provides a method to break complicated signals up into a set of well understood building blocks, in a similar way to how conventional Fourier analysis breaks signals up into a set of smooth sine waves,” Professor Barnsley said.

Professor Barnsley’s work draws on the work of Karl Weierstrass from the late 19th Century, who discovered a family of mathematical functions that were continuous, but could not be differentiated.

“There are terrific advances to be made by breaking loose from the thrall of continuity and differentiability,” Professor Barnsley said.

“The body is full of repeating branch structures – the breathing system, the blood supply system, the arrangement of skin cells, even cancer is a fractal.”

Source: ANU

Dec 052014
 

houseDo you consider yourself a conscientious person? Then sign up for a fixed-rate mortgage. Neurotic? You’ll probably opt for home ownership over renting.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, personality traits are strong indicators of real-estate decisions. The research, by Dr. Danny Ben-Shahar of Tel Aviv University‘s Faculty of Management and doctoral candidate Roni Golan of the Technion Institute of Technology, finds a correlation between personality and individual real estate choices, and a follow-up study by the same team finds an identical link between local personality types in America and statewide real estate trends.

“This research falls within the scope of a much larger discussion in the social sciences in general, and in economics in particular, about what constitutes decision-making: the rational view versus that affected by emotional and cognitive biases,” said Dr. Ben-Shahar. “My work shows that people in the real estate framework act ‘irrationally,’ as economists say, and not according to traditional economic assumptions.”

The “Big Five” and home ownership

In their first study, the researchers administered a widely-used personality assessment test called the “Big Five” to a diverse sample of 1,138 respondents. The test asks takers to rate themselves on a scale from 1 to 5 on questions that measure standard personality traits: Openness (artistic, curious, imaginative), Conscientiousness (efficient, organized), Extroversion (sociable, outgoing, energetic), Agreeableness, (forgiving, undemanding) and Neuroticism (tense, discontented).

Once the researchers established the personality types of the respondents, they asked five questions about their real estate preferences — such as the type and duration of a mortgage, whether to rent or buy, and whether to invest in real estate or stocks. The findings were controlled for a series of variables including, among others, level of education, homeownership, age, gender, and income.

The results showed a clear link between personality and real estate decisions. Neurotic people, for example, prefer homeownership over renting. When they do buy, they opt for a mortgage with a lower “loan-to-value” (LTV) ratio, which means the loan amount is low compared to the price of the home.

“It turns out, not surprisingly to psychologists and behavioral economists perhaps, that there are very significant correlations between personality traits and preferences in real estate,” said Dr. Ben-Shahar.

State-by-state

In the follow-up study, Dr. Ben-Shahar examined the results of the Big Five personality test with respect to a much larger sample of 1.6 million Americans. By matching predominant “personality types” of US states with housing data from the US Census and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the team found that here, too, personality was associated with real estate choices. The so-called “personality” of a state was defined by previous studies in which researchers averaged the responses of individuals on the Big Five test for each state.

The neurotic state of New York, for example, tended to choose lower loan-to-value ratios on mortgages, whereas states with relatively high marks for openness, like South Carolina, leaned toward a relatively greater share of fixed-rate mortgages. Vermont, on the other hand, scored relatively highly on openness and tended to choose lower LTVs. “While not every state’s real estate profile lined up exactly with its predominant personality, we saw the macro level reflect trends detected at the micro level,” Dr. Ben-Shahar said.

Dr. Ben-Shahar is currently working on other models of non-rational decision making in the real estate market.

Dec 052014
 

88346f5c6aWhat motivates people to cooperate in collaborative endeavors? “First carrot, then stick”. Tatsuya Sasaki, mathematician from the University of Vienna, has put forth for the first time ever a mathematical proof of this process. The study is recently published online in the “Journal of the Royal Society Interface”.

The new study establishes that the best combination for incentives and punishment that promotes cooperation are in the form of “First carrot, then stick”. The mathematical proof shows how the combined sequential use of reward (“carrot”) and punishment (“stick”) promotes cooperation in collaborative endeavors, such as protecting social commons and maintaining mutual aid.

Rewards and punishments are the most tried and true approaches when trying to promote cooperation in collaborative endeavors. New research, in terms of evolutionary game theory, is examining a mixed policy of reward and punishment. In contrast, previous studies have only focused on either reward or punishment. As is well known, incentives can be costly and can be adjusted depending on a situation.

In this paper, Sasaki and his colleagues have taken a different approach and investigated what happens when maximizing evolutionary forces towards cooperation. Through game-theory analysis, the study finds that the best approach is to first reward minor cooperators, and then when a critical mass of cooperators is reached, completely switch to punishing free riders.

How is this applicable to contemporary issues? Take automobiles as an example where this hybrid approach can be implemented. Those who currently drive powerful gas-guzzling vehicles should switch to different engines and fuels that are more environmentally friendly. Sasaki and his colleagues mathematically show that a “first carrot, then stick” policy can drive cooperation toward a specific goal. “We have optimized the adaptive dynamics under a centralized incentive system. Therefore, fascinating future work would investigate how and when individuals voluntarily delegate the incentive control to a central authority”, says Sasaki.

Source: University of Vienna

Dec 022014
 

Let's talk this through...

“One reason men earn higher salaries than women could be women’s apparent disadvantage vis-à-vis men in some types of negotiations,” said lead author Jens Mazei, a doctoral candidate at Germany’s University of Münster. “But we discovered that this disadvantage is not inevitable; rather, it very much depends on the context of the negotiation.”

Researchers examined 51 studies from several countries, including the U.S., The Netherlands, Germany, India and China, with a total of 10,888 participants, of whom 4,656 were women and 6,232 were men. The samples included business people as well as graduate and undergraduate students. The researchers found that negotiation results depended on the situation and the person involved. When women negotiated on behalf of another person, when they knew about the bargaining range in the negotiations and when they had experience in negotiating, they were better at negotiating than men, according to the study, which was published in APA’s Psychological Bulletin.

Society’s beliefs about gender roles may be at the root of men’s advantage in some negotiations, the authors wrote. Previous research has found that gender roles reflect certain expectations of men’s and women’s behavior. Male gender role characteristics include behaving in competitive, assertive or profit-oriented ways, whereas the traditional female gender role has communal characteristics, such as being relationship-oriented, accommodating and concerned with the welfare of others.

“Women in negotiations might feel social pressure to adhere to the female role and display gender-consistent behavior such as accommodation or cooperation,” the study said. When women behave in a manner not consistent with society’s expectations, they have historically risked backlash and disapproval, the authors noted.

“Our analysis suggests ways to lessen or even reverse gender differences in negotiations favoring men,” said co-lead author Joachim Hüffmeier, PhD, of the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Dortmund, Germany. “It looks as though gender roles no longer give men a bargaining advantage if women are trained in negotiation, have information about the bargaining range and if they are negotiating for other individuals.”

The analysis looked exclusively at research that had compared and reported final economic negotiation outcomes achieved by women and men in actual negotiations. Examples included negotiating for an increase in one’s own salary and negotiating a financial interest on behalf of a client, friend or on behalf of an organization or company. While women performed better when negotiating on behalf of another individual, such was not the case when they negotiated on behalf of themselves or on behalf of a large organization, according to the study. “It remains to be seen if this effect would hold when negotiating for smaller social entities, such as a team, workgroup or family,” the authors wrote.

Source: American Psychological Association

 

Dec 022014
 

A study from the University of Exeter has found that male flies die earlier than their female counterparts when forced to evolve with the pressures of mate competition and juvenile survival. The results could help researchers understand the mechanisms involved in ageing.

The research, published in the journal Functional Ecology, used populations of the fly Drosophila simulans that had evolved under different selection regimes. The study shows that mate competition (sexual selection), along with survival (natural selection), is tougher on male ageing than it is on females reducing their lifespan by about a third.

Some species, like the flies in this study, age quickly over a number of days while others – including some trees and whales – age slowly across centuries.

Professor David Hosken from Biosciences at the University of Exeter said: “We found dramatic differences in the effects of sexual and natural selection on male and female flies. These results could help explain the sex differences in lifespan seen in many species, including humans, and the diverse patterns of ageing we observe in nature.”

The flies were subjected to elevated or relaxed sexual and natural selection and left to evolve in these conditions. To elevate sexual selection groups of males were housed with single females. A stressful temperature was used to elevate natural selection.

Males court females by singing, dancing and smelling good but their efforts come at considerable cost and this cost is amplified when they also have to cope with stressful temperatures.

The results of the study showed that under relaxed sexual and natural selection, male and female flies had very similar lifespans – around 35 days. However males that evolved under elevated sexual selection and elevated natural selection had a much shorter lifespan – just 24 days – and died seven days earlier than females under the same conditions.

Both sexual selection and natural selection were found to affect lifespan but their effects were greatest on males. The findings show that the sexes can respond differently to the same selection regimes.

Source: University of Exeter

Dec 022014
 

brainLoneliness increases the risk of poor sleep, higher blood pressure, cognitive and immune decline, depression, and ultimately an earlier death. Why? The traditional explanation is that lonely people lack life’s advisors: people who encourage healthy behaviours and curb unhealthy ones. If so, we should invest in pamphlets, adverts and GP advice: ignorance is the true disease, loneliness just a symptom. This article written by Alex Fradera (@alexfradera) for the BPS Research Digest.

But this can’t be the full story. Introverts with small networks aren’t at especial health risk, and people with an objectively full social life can feel lonely and suffer the consequences. A new review argues that for the 800,000 UK citizens who experience it all or most of the time, loneliness itself is the disease: it directly alters our perception, our thoughts, and the very structure and chemistry of our brains. The authors – loneliness expert John Cacioppo, his wife Stephanie Cacioppo, and their colleague John Capitanio – build their case on psychological and neuroscientific research, together with animal studies that help show loneliness really is the cause, not just the consequence, of various mental and physical effects.

The review suggests lonely people are sensitive to negative social outcomes and accordingly their responses in social settings are dampened. We know the former from reaction time tasks involving negative social words (lonely people respond faster), and tasks involving the detection of concealed pain in faces (lonely people are extra sensitive when the faces are dislikeable). Functional imaging evidence also shows lonely people have a suppressed neural response to rewarding social stimuli, which reduces their excitement about possible social contact; they also have dampened activity in brain areas involved in predicting what others are thinking – possibly a defence mechanism based on the idea that it’s better not to know. All this adds up to what the authors characterise as a social “self-preservation mode.”

Meanwhile, animal models are helping us to understand the deeper, biological correlates associated with loneliness. For mice, being raised in isolation depletes key neurosteroids including one involved in aggression; it reduces brain myelination, which is vital to brain plasticity and may account for the social withdrawal and inflexibility seen in isolated animals; and it can influence gene expression linked to anxious behaviours.

What about changes to our neural tissue? Human research is suggestive: in one study, people who self-identified as lonelier were more likely to develop dementia. Here, initial cognitive decline could be causing loneliness, but animal work gives us some plausible mechanisms for loneliness’ impact: animals kept in isolation have suppressed growth of new neurons in areas relating to communication and memory, just as very social periods such as breeding season see a pronounced spike in growth.

Other basic brain processes are also upset by isolation. Isolated mice show reduced delta-wave activity during deep sleep; and their inflammatory responses also change, meaning that in one study, three in five isolated mice died following an induced stroke, whereas every one of their cage-sharing peers survived the same process.

The research is clear that loneliness directly impacts health, so we need to do what we can to help people free themselves from social marginalisation. I’ve seen one approach during my time serving with time banking charities, in which people give their own time in return for someone else’s in a different situation – a process that can build social networks. Also the issue is acquiring momentum through the Campaign to End Loneliness and technology solutions such as the RSA’s Social Mirror project – an app that tells people about local social groups and activities. Mainstream health is also picking this up under the term “social prescription” (physicians advise patients of social groups and activities and “facilitators” help the patients take up the opportunities). But amongst all the institutional activity, we mustn’t forget our individual duties: sometimes all that’s needed is to reach out.

Source: BPS Research Digest

  • RSSRSS
  • Social Slider
  • RSS